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Investigating Elizabethan England from a European Perspective

A literature professor at Bangor University has been awarded a Fellowship more usually awarded to the sciences. Marie Curie Fellowships are among Europe’s most competitive and prestigious awards and are aimed at fostering interdisciplinary research, innovative academic training and international collaborations.

Professor Andrew Hiscock, who specialises in Elizabethan literature and its place within a wider European context, has been awarded the Fellowship which will see him joining the multidisciplinary team of renaissance researchers at Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier for two years.

Of particular interest to Prof Hiscock is how Elizabethan culture was perceived in European literature of the time and how British renaissance writers responded to cultural influences from across the Channel. His current project into Shakespearean drama takes on a distinctively European emphasis as he will be researching representations of the Elizabethan court and culture in early prose, plays and travel writing in French Italian, Spanish and Dutch writing during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Prof Hiscock explains:

‘Early Modern Europe was fascinated by the phenomenon of Elizabeth and her island realm, a woman on the throne of a Protestant nation-state hemmed in by mighty Catholic powers such as France and Spain. It’s true to say that the European courts kept the Tudor court under surveillance and remained wary of the alliances it forged. Though English courtiers were often well-versed in the Romance languages of French, Spanish or Italian, few Europeans spoke English. Indeed, when the Italian intellectual Giordano Bruno stayed in England in the 1580s, he confessed his ignorance of the language: “because all gentlemen of any rank with whom [one] holds conversations can speak Latin, French, Spanish and Italian… [and] are aware that the English language is used only on this island and they would consider themselves barbarians if they knew no other tongue than their own”.

‘I am fascinated by the ways in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries looked beyond the boundaries of the English-speaking world and remained sensitive to the intellectual and artistic innovations of their counterparts on continental Europe. This exciting project will allow me to develop this passion and combine it with a further understanding of European assessments of the final Tudor monarch and her court,’ he added.

In parallel with studying how European writers engaged with the subject of Elizabethan England, Prof Hiscock will also be learning from partners at Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier in the South of France. The University has very successfully built up a number of academic partnerships with eminent arts and literary festivals in which academics play a key role in sharing expertise with the festival organizers, performers and the wider public. Prof Hiscock is keen to bring back to Bangor University and to its new Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre, some of the ways in which academic expertise can contribute to and enrich further such cultural events.

“I was also very keen to apply for a Marie Curie Award because of the training element which is integral to the award. I have been working with academic colleagues at Montpellier’s distinguished Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Age and the Enlightenment for a number of years. Their passion for disseminating academic research to a whole range of different audiences continues to excite me and I will now have the opportunity to see at first-hand how they contribute to a whole range of cultural events and festivals.

This is an exciting time for Bangor and the region with the opening of the Pontio Arts & Innovation Centre, and I’m keen to bring back the best practice in public engagement so that it can be adapted to our own needs in the University and the wider region,” he added.

Elen ap Robert Artistic Director of Pontio Arts & Innovation Centre said:

“Pontio’s arts mission is to present an artistic programme of the highest quality which resonates with our communities and audiences. I look forward to learning about audience engagement practices in Montpellier from Prof Hiscock and to seeing how we in Pontio can relate to them and implement them where possible in our outreach and engagement programme in the future.”

“It is a great honour and pleasure to welcome such a distinguished and experienced scholar in Montpellier”, said Prof. Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, director of the Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Age and the Enlightenment (IRCL), the joint research centre (UMR 5186) of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) where Professor Hiscock will work for two years. “We look forward to welcoming Professor Hiscock, whose research project coheres perfectly with the work of a team that has been publishing the international journal Cahiers Élisabéthains for 44 years, and the European scope of his project constitutes a perfect fit with IRCL’s own mission. The university Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and the CNRS are absolutely delighted that Andrew Hiscock should have chosen to work with us in Montpellier on such a European and Elizabethan topic. We have no doubt that this collaboration will be extremely fruitful, both pedagogically and scientifically within a university that fosters ambitious cultural projects.”

Publication date: 10 May 2016